Butterfly Migration on Cape Cod

Photo courtesy of Kristin Nador Flickr/Wanna Commons

Photo courtesy of Kristin Nador Flickr/Wanna Commons

Besides the bird, fish, whale, turtle, and seal migration, butterflies also migrate. Monarch Butterflies are the farthest travelers of the insect world. They cover an area from Mexico to Canada, 2000 miles or more, out-distancing even most birds. If you’ve ever seen a cloud of Monarchs, you wouldn’t forget the beautiful sight. I was lucky enough to see them once in Santa Cruz, California, with my family.
It remains an unsolved mystery how these insects find their migration path. Their short life spans usually make it a one-way trip. Their offspring take the return flight. Monarchs fly about ten to twenty-five miles an hour, travel eighty miles a day. They only weigh one quarter to three quarters of a gram. Flying about twenty feet off the ground, they flap their wings about 300 to 720 times a minute. Butterflies can see and smell and taste the nectar they eat.
Breeding takes place in the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico, where the female can lay from 250 to 720 eggs in a day, one at a time.
A little detail: the Monarchs don’t arrive on the Cape until July. I’m telling you ahead, because after the hard winter on Cape Cod, everyone needs to think summer!

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About Gerri

I'm in my second career. Besides raising my beautiful family, worked as RN. Now I'm a novelist. Have completed five novels and working on my sixth. Way more fun than nursing! Happy hubby and neurotic cat hang out with me.

Posted on March 23, 2015, in Issues of Interest, On Cape Cod and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Nature is one of the most beautiful gifts God gives us to brighten our lives. I loved reading about the Monarchs and their beautiful colors!

    • Their beautiful colors are to scare away predators, and Monarchs taste horrible from ingesting milkweed as larvae, making them actually poisonous to eat! And you are so right, nature is a gift from God. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog–thanks for saying so!

  2. I watched a discovery special on the Monarchs. What is so sad is they said in Mexico the humans have done so much cutting of the trees and deforestation that that have no more breeding grounds and will become extinct for that reason. Try to google it.

    • I am so glad there is interest in protecting the beautiful Monarchs. The Mexicans have stepped up there vigilance in illegal logging of their Oyamel fir forests where many Monarchs breed. There are three places Monarchs breed, Mexico and both east and west of the Rockies. The drop in numbers of the species is due mainly to their loss of habitat (from pesticide destruction of milkweed), but also to changes in the weather patterns. Please see my response to Joan’s comment above. We can all help by planting milkweed and flowers. Buy a kit at http://www.monarchwatch.org. Thanks for commenting, Barbara!

  3. According to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, in Virginia, the Monarch population is becoming threatened because of the loss of habitat. Due to pesticides, the Monarchs numbers are rapidly decreasing. They live on milkweed and milkweed only. If you have the source, and you care, it would be advisable to plant a few milkweed plants and help to sustain this beautiful species.
    Google “Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Monarch Project” for more information.

    • Thanks for commenting, Joan. I didn’t include the bad news on my blog, but you are right. Monarch population is dropping precipitously. Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve started in 1986 with 62 square miles was expanded to 217 square miles in 2000. Many other smaller conservation programs are underway. But the biggest danger to the butterflies is habitat loss from pesticides used in agriculture that kill milkweed. Milkweed is the plant Monarchs lay their eggs on, and it’s also a food source for their larvae. Adult butterflies get their nutrients from flower nectar–but without the milkweed, there would be no butterflies. Currently, a study is underway whether or not to list the species as endangered–results not due until 2016. We should all plant milkweed, eschew pesticides in our gardens, and grow the flowers that butterflies prefer for their nectar! Seed kits and more are available on http://www.monarchwatch.org.

  4. Reading “Flight Behavior” raised my awareness of the plight of the Monarch. On a more hopeful note, we have a friend who is planting milkweed on her property.

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